But what if I occupy the space between?

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”     – Charles Bukowski

But what about if I occupy the space between? I do and I don’t believe in God.  I want to and I don’t want to.  I am drawn to and confused by the divine all at once.

I cannot forsake the legacy of faith that I inherited, but I have made that faith my own, and now it is unrecognizable.  I hate street preachers and people that hand out tracts, but I could also live in the wilderness, barefoot, and talk about Jesus all day with locked hair, eating locusts and honey.

I feel like there is no space for a person who aches for justice and loves the prophets.  There is no space for me as I love mystics and meditation.  I wish that I had enough time in this life to learn Hebrew so that I could read the holy texts for myself.  I could also study in Tibet under Buddhist monks, shave my head, and wear saffron robes.  It feels right to stop what I am doing, abruptly set up my mat, and face Mecca to answer this global call to prayer.  I worship the moon and the tides and protons and neutrons and quarks.  I believe in science and evolution and germ theory and I believe that Ezekiel saw the wheel and that Jesus’ spit and mud were a healing salve.  I believe in the holiness of blood as I watch a child born.  I honor my visceral instinct to worship mothers and their sacred wombs.  It makes me want to have a glass of wine and remember how this holy blood was also the life giving force that was shed for me.  I feel God when I read about deoxyribonucleic acid copying and editing itself and when I think about how mitochondria were once living things outside of our cells.  I feel fire in my bones when I sing counterpoint.

I know that I cannot go inside the walls of the church, the church that I dearly love and miss, and belt its hymns at the top of my lungs.  I can speak the language and get by.  I know all the right words to use and I nod my head politely.  Eventually I betray myself.  I can see that I am a heretic.  I take my Torah up with me and leave.  Yet I know I am not welcome in academia with my eucharist either.  They eventually see that my gut reaction is lay my hands on everyone.  I leave the Ivory tower, leading a small parade of the prophets behind me like ducklings.

I have grown comfortable with ambiguity and inhabiting the in between spaces because I have to.  But it is lonely here.  I am lonely here.

I have grown comfortable with my faith.  But my faith and my body and my mind require community.  And I don’t know where to find my people.  I would love to belong somewhere.

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Safety Not Guaranteed

For as long as I can remember God has been my center.  I knew this even as a small child.  Now, as an alleged grown person, I wonder what that means.  I was raised with a simple faith.  I do not think my family meant to give me such a flimsy faith, but they could only give me what they had.  I was told to put a Bible under my pillow to protect me from bad dreams (it has never worked and I still suffer from bad dreams).  I was taught that you pray.  I somehow absorbed that if we pray we can get everything that we need.  This is simply not true.
 
I have to tell you that every single time I realize that there is no safety net as I walk this high wire, it is as if my body is being slammed onto a brick wall at a high speed.  It just sucks that there is no protection for us.  So I have always struggled with prayer and to figure out who this God is that I am drawn to, whom I beg to stay by my side.  
 
Dear God, please be with me.  
 
I always thought that my safe passage in this world was guaranteed because I was in the God club; I was saved.  Isn’t that what saved means?  As a girl I had many prayers: that we could live in a house, that the scars on my knees would go away, and that my dad wouldn’t have cancer anymore.  My dad died of cancer.  I never lived in a house with my dad.  My knees are still banged up.  

God, I am so tired.  I need strength.
 
So with my heart and guts wrenched out, why is it that I still find myself praying to this God?  
 
God, you have thousands upon thousands of angels.  Can you send one in please.  I know you can.  
 
So what the shit is prayer for anyway?  I met a girl in college who I grew to love.  I knew that I could not live without her.  But I was so afraid of her dying.  She was so sick.  I wanted to pray for her healing.  I wanted to ask God to let me keep her.  I knew prayer did not work like that.  I prayed anyway.  My prayers were always frantic and beggy.  They still are.  I wept and sobbed.  I carry with me so many stories of unanswered prayers: stillborn babies, orphaned children, uncured illnesses, burned down and flooded homes, small wounds that led to amputation because there wasn’t enough money to see a real doctor, a starving mother with twins who only has enough milk to nurse one baby.  I hold these tragedies in my heart, and carry them with me wherever I go.  My natural inclination is still to pray.  
 
Please, God.  Please help.  Send help soon. 
 
[cricket chirping noises]
 
There isn’t anything else to do but pray.  That is why I still do it.  I get so mad sometimes that God brought me into this world.  I did not agree to the terms of this life.  Yet here I am- alive.  This life on this earth is so very, very, painful.  I have lost things I cannot live without.  I will continue to lose people I cannot live without.  We are subjected to great suffering here.  
 
God, I am so tired.  
 
Why am I still here?  Because I can hear God calling me to stay.  It feels like I am treading water in the cold open ocean and the sharks can smell blood.  Every now and then, I feel warmth, I get a deep breath, someone lets me rest my head on their shoulders and swims for me.  The girl I met in college is healed.
 
God, thank you.  Just- thank you.  Help me hold on to this relief.
 
Before I feel rested I am back to treading water again with salt water up my nose, chapped lips, and a sore body.
 
Ugh, God.  I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
 
I still hesitate to pray.  It is hard to ask when the answer seems to so often be a still and silent- no.  I just cannot resist prayer.  Even when I am filled with doubt, my mind does it anyway.  I ask for the easiest way out of things, and the only thing God gives me is God.  I am not promised safe passage through this world.  I will continue to have my heart wrenched out of my chest.  God will continue to be there by my side like a faint whisper.  

 

Haters Anonymous- Trigger Warning

Hi, My name is _________, and I am a Hater.
I wrote this when I was still in college *ahem* over three years ago. But it reminds me of the recent political unrest that has lead to the murder of 6 people in Arizona, including a child.

May God have mercy on us.
I was doing research for a project that I was involved with. The project had to do with society’s interaction with the LGBT community (queer folk for most of us that do not know what all the letters stand for); especially the Christian church. As I was looking for articles on the internet I came across a report about hate crimes. This report had been compiled and contained hate crimes in chronological order from 1998 until 2002. The report was 51 pages long and appeared in relatively small print.

I scanned the article, thinking that the hate crimes would only be a few pages and then the rest of the article would be a discussion of some sort. I was surprised to see that all 51 pages were accounts of hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, gender (toward women), religion, and sexual orientation.

I printed it out so that I could read thru the accounts at my leisure on my commute to and from school and not have to rely upon the computer (I would also use it as a source for a paper that would accompany the project).

I soon realized that the task of going through 51 pages of hate crimes was not as easy as I had anticipated. I stopped frequently and would find myself starring into space as I tried to imagine the things I read about actually taking place. The words were so disturbing that at one point a member of the group I was in, placed their hand on the article, and told me to quit reading it. But I was compelled to read of the ugliness of the world. Someone had to. Someone had to know how all those people died from the hate that someone had nurtured for so long.

The stories were of beatings, burnings, sexual abuse, gunfire, and murders. Of persons, men, women, and children of all shapes, sizes, religions, and sexual orientations. I thought to myself, is this what God wanted? I mean, even if he did find people’s lifestyles deplorable, are we to kill and beat these people to death? Obviously not. God doesn’t hate people. He doesn’t even hate the haters. I can never let myself hate so much that I would destroy human life- never ever, ever.

I know a girl whose father sexually abuses her. This is not the thing of the past, but of the present. He is a coward and not worthy of the title “father” or “man.” He is sick and despicable. I promised myself that if I ever met him in person that he would have the indentation of my fist and teeth in his face and limbs. I promised myself that he would know me and that he would know that I know what he does. I know that God wants me to forgive him and to not feel this way about him. I know that God’s graces are extended to him, though I do not want them to be. But they are. God’s love is big enough to forgive a molester and a rapist and pedophile. And honestly- sometimes I really dislike this about God. I really want God to hate the people I hate. And some people go out of their way to form their god into a being that acts and thinks exactly like themselves. But I am a douchebag, and an evolved douchebag at that, who knows that God is so much different than me. And this is a really good thing. God’s ways are better than whatever I imagine. And I longed for the day that I would want to change how I felt about this despicable person. And it came.

I realized that my hate for this man was the same hate that motivated crimes that took so many lives. Now mind you, I am not just picking some random man to beat or kill; I wanted to harm just my friend’s abuser. I saw the bruises she tried to hide, I saw the scabs she tried to hide. And I knew there were wounds he gave her that I could not even begin to imagine. And I wanted him to taste his own blood, maybe swallow a tooth or two. I felt rage and hate, justifiably. But it is the same hate in God’s eyes. I hated, and I already murdered him in my heart. Yes, he still lives and breathes (which I regret that he has the privilege) but I cannot live my life with that hate. I cannot allow myself to have that hate that killed a 6 year old girl with a machine gun, the hate that ran a car over a group of black kids, the hate that hung a black man in his front yard, the hate that tied a homosexual to a fence to die, or the hate that carved epithets in the skin of a college student. I cannot let that same hate have a place inside of me to nurture.

God said, “Love. Love everyone. Love everyone through your actions. These actions should look ridiculous and largely generous. Give your love outrageously to everyone, especially the poor. And while you’re at it, love your enemy, too.”

I think God did that so we could peer into how tremendous she is at loving and forgiving and giving grace.

So hate has made me flinch. I cannot hear the word without having those stories flash like lightning in my stomach and the nausea rise a little. The night after I finished reading the entire compilation, I turned off the light at 1am, and I was petrified. I was petrified of the hate pool that I so willingly contributed to, to the hate that we participate in, and of how God must be so sad that we have it so wrong. I had nightmares that night that I kind of remember, and that I appreciate not remembering. My husband told me the next morning that I was talking so much in my sleep that I woke him up. I might have been calling for him or help or something. I don’t know, but it wasn’t good. I never talk in my sleep; that’s just how disturbed I was by all that I had read.

In hating, I too committed a hate crime. May God forgive me, as she is willing to forgive them, too. I don’t want to participate in that anymore. No more.